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California utility company workers lacked training before instituting blackouts: report

California utility company workers lacked training before instituting blackouts: report
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Most of the utility workers tasked with cutting power with to wildfire-prone areas of California last year did not receive proper training, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.

The lack of training by Pacific Gas & Electric resulted in widespread disarray one year ago, according to the AP, which noted that the company chose to develop its own training standards in 2018 instead of abiding by long-held  guidelines. As a result, the outages in 2019 reportedly resulted in electronics becoming unusable and parts of infrastructure, like traffic lights and elevators, ceasing to operate.

In a statement to the news service, PG&E stated that it had improved training conditions with about 90 percent of its 676 emergency center employees completing the required training. Improvements reportedly included introducing the Standardized Emergency Management System, a program originating from 1991 in response to disastrous fires that burned through Oakland hills near the headquarters of PG&E.

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While the investigation into the utility company is expected to keep going into next year, state officials have said that proficient training for all emergency personnel is needed immediately.

PG&E has agreed to $25.5 billion worth of settlements related to the wildfires, which destroyed about 28,000 homes and buildings and the loss of 140 lives.

During a legal discovery into the 2019 wildfires, it was discovered in January that “there are currently no positions within the [Emergency Operations Center] organization structure that require prior emergency management experience, qualifications, or certification” at PG&E, the AP noted.

Chris Godley, director of emergency management for Sonoma County, likened the situation to jazz, telling the AP that last year’s situation was like having someone show up with an instrument and, “walk onto the stage and just jump into the middle of the song.”